The adjutant ceased groaning. As long as the silent pressure lasted, he ceased to complain, ceased perhaps to suffer. Bouchenton kept his right hand there as long as it was necessary.
I saw this, Bouchenton, my brother. I will not forget it. And I saw, too, your aching, useless left arm, which you had been obliged to abandon in order to have a hand to give, hanging by your side like a limp rag.
To be over forty years old, to be a tradesman of repute, well known throughout one’s quarter, to be at the head of a prosperous provision-dealer’s business, and to get two fragments of shell—in the back and the left buttock respectively—is really a great misfortune; yet this is what happened to M. Levy, infantryman and Territorial.
I never spoke familiarly to M. Levy, because of his age and his air of respectability; and perhaps, too, because, in his case, I felt a great and special need to preserve my authority.
Monsieur Levy was not always “a good patient.” When I first approached him, he implored me not to touch him “at any price.”
I disregarded these injunctions, and did what was necessary. Throughout the process, Monsieur Levy was snoring, be it said. But he woke up at last, uttered one or two piercing cries, and stigmatised me as a “brute.” All right.
Then I showed him the big pieces of cast-iron I had removed from his back and his buttock respectively. Monsieur Levy’s eyes at once filled with tears; he murmured a few feeling words about his family, and then pressed my hands warmly: “Thank you, thank you, dear Doctor.”
Since then, Monsieur Levy has suffered a good deal, I must admit. There are the plugs! And those abominable india-rubber tubes we push into the wounds! Monsieur Levy, kneeling and prostrating himself, his head in his bolster, suffered every day and for several days without stoicism or resignation. I was called an “assassin” and also on several occasions, a “brute.” All right.
However, as I was determined that Monsieur Levy should get well, I renewed the plugs, and looked sharply after the famous india-rubber tubes.
The time came when my hands were warmly pressed and my patient said: “Thank you, thank you, dear Doctor,” every day.
At last Monsieur Levy ceased to suffer, and confined himself to the peevish murmurs of a spoilt beauty or a child that has been scolded. But now no one takes him seriously. He has become the delight of the ward; he laughs so heartily when the dressing is over, he is naturally so gay and playful, that I am rather at a loss as to the proper expression to assume when, alluding to the past, he says, with a look in which good nature, pride, simplicity, and a large proportion of playful malice are mingled:
“I suffered so much! so much!”